A sometimes half-arsed record of the process of writing in its' variegated many forms.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

part II (sort of)

So, this isn't really part two, in that I am not going to being relating the thoughts and experience I had after seeing the Hurtlocker. But I did want to talk about some few ideas I had while I was riding the T over to Cambridge to meet my mum and see Aurelia's Oratorio (unfrickin' believable). My subway book is a slender volume by Roland Barthes called Mythologies. It's a collection of essays about aspects of what Barthes seems to feel are the modern day myths, which are the banalities of modern lifestyle lies (kind of a thing).

I had this idea that this is true. That mythology has been reduced to empty signifiers, and that the secularity of society has drained the mundane of the potential for the type of insight that can flash from the spiritual experience. And the repetitiveness and universalness of mythic structures (the origin of genre?) are this way to inspire a reminder in the imbiber of said myth that they are on the hero's journey already in their own life.

There's this connection between individuality, spirituality, and both the loss of individuality and the insistence on the primacy of the individual that comes out of techno-modernity. And I really had that hook while I was riding the train, but I didn't have anything to write with. Now I'm trying to recreate the sequence of thoughts, and I'm struggling a bit.

Yeah, I'm having trouble reconstructing. Let me just quote a passage of James Altas's Bellow, in which he pontificates on SB and then quotes him at length:

But there was nothing abstract about Bellow's theme: The cataclysmic events of the century- the two world wars, the Holocaust, the rise of mass society- had made art superfluous. The modern world had conspired to drown out the novelist's- his- distinctive voice: (now quoting from Bellow's letters)

The enormous increases in population seem to have dwarfed the individual. So have modern physics and astronomy. But we may be somewhere between a false greatness and a false insignificance. At least we can stop misrepresenting ourselves to ourselves and realize that the only thing we can be in this world is human. We are temporarily miracle-sodden and feeling faint.

Now I do feel that Atlas is a little rough with his subject, but regardless, the idea here that our individuality is getting lost. Individuality that is quite possibly the experience of a fully conscious self (which I consider to be the spiritual experience, but we can quibble over terminology if it's totally necessary), and this experience is attenuated and frustrated by the modern secular economic society; a society that places its highest values on materiality, which the ethnographic record tells us is the antithesis of the valuations of the saints and mystics of the world.

William James is right when he says that the saintly disposition of early christian saints to remove themselves from the world is not bad but not particularly helpful either. The problem of staying a saint while surrounded by the sins of material secularity pose a greater challenge than the pure asceticality of a monastic cell. And those saints are needed to help steer this spaceship Earth away from the abyss of foolish, infantile destruction that we are currently flying right for, at no less than full throttle.

So, what we need are saints who can live in and effect change in the way we all live in this wild, wild life we call the global society of planet Earth. We need exemplars of the saintly life who can teach how to live within the insanity of modernity and maybe help deflect the collective consciousness in a direction that's a little more sane and really rational. And saints are inspired by the symbols that deeply unlock that spirit of self, the great myths, and when those myths (those symbols of authentic artistry) really tap the universal human archetypes, they can inspire the human creature to unseen heights of generosity, compassion, and love. A level of furor only otherwise met through greed, aggressiveness, and rational self-interest.

One of the things that might be useful, that might be valuable in this direction, would be to try to bring to the mundane this spiritual perspective, and by staying present in the banal moments of life, it might be possible to bring to life the majesty of the mundane in words or images or somehow. Okay, yeah, so that was basically the idea I had on the T today. That quote kind of knocked it loose. And trying to concentrate and follow those ideas on a train full of people was no small task, I can tell you.